When are two heads better than one? In the case of Oracle, two channel heads might just be better than one decision-maker for a long list of reasons, which I will discuss later in this column. The obvious issue in having two channel heads—one overseeing applications and the other the technology segment—is that important decisions about channel policies, strategy or direction will slow down because two people have to weigh in. Two egos, two points of view, two agendas could all muddy the waters, making Oracle less channel-friendly or harder to do business with goes the thinking.
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I hate stating the obvious, but whenever a company puts two people in relatively the same role, things rarely work out as planned. The situation at Oracle is a very complicated one. This is a company that does not have a history of being partner-friendly but it is one of the single most important software companies of our time. You cannot argue with the quality of its products, whether developed organically or acquired. But you can always argue with the quality of its channel programs and its commitment to partners. So, after years of fits and starts, Oracle started making significant progress under its former channel chief Rauline Ochs, who understood channels and, as an outsider, was willing to take on the Oracle establishment to fight the good channel fight. We were so impressed with her efforts that in 2007 we named her the Everything Channel Executive of the Year. So after Ochs left, Oracle went on an extensive search for a replacement, ultimately deciding to split her position in two with Tyler Prince overseeing Oracle's enterprise applications business, which includes PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards software, and John Gray in charge of databases and middleware. It was a bold move.
The two understand the delicate nature of their positions and how hard they must work to be on the same page so partners are not confused. Each has a channel sales number they have to hit. Their pitch to boss Keith Block was that they would not increase costs but drive up sales because of the benefits gained from specializing on each piece of the business with partners.
In speaking with these executives, individually and together, they make a convincing argument. While many Oracle partners do sell both enterprise apps and databases, those two sales and consulting efforts are often completely separate, so why not have an organization that matches the partner go-to-market strategy? As a result, partners should see some overall benefit, they say. Only time will tell if both gents are right. In addition, does it really hurt for Oracle to have two high-level executives waving the channel flag outside the offices of Larry Ellison or Charles Phillips? It definitely can't hurt. Perhaps that is the best part of this move.
Key vendors are already taking note of the move. If Prince and Gray are successful, what's to stop Microsoft, HP or IBM from doing the same? A similar model is already under way at CA under chief Bill Lipsin and is showing signs of success.
Is two better than one? Let me know. Everything Channel SVP/Editorial Director Robert C. DeMarzo is at email@example.com.